Saturday, May 18, 2024

2024.05.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Matthew 8:18–22

Read Matthew 8:18–22

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Jesus see in Matthew 8:18a? What command did He give (verse 18b)? Who came to Him in Matthew 8:19? What did he call Him? What did he say that he would do? What two things does Jesus mention to him first (Matthew 8:20)? What does Jesus call Himself? How does He compare to the foxes and birds? Who addresses Him in Matthew 8:21? What does he say that he will do, and when? What does Jesus tell him to do instead (Matthew 8:22)? Whom does He say to leave to bury their own? 

What can get in the way of true discipleship? Matthew 8:18–22 prepares us for the morning sermon on the Lord’s Day. In these five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that pride and half-heartedness are two obstacles to true discipleship.

Matthew reminds us again of the point about the many and the few by pointing out to us Jesus’s response to the multitudes around Him (Matthew 8:18a). He does not lean into their enthusiasm, but rather increases the difficulty of following Him by commanding to depart to the other side of the lake. So rather than jumping to judgment of this scribe and this other follower/disciple, we should remember that they have put some effort into staying with Jesus. Thus, the Spirit encourages us to identify with these followers and take to heart our own susceptibility to the same spiritual dangers: pride and half-heartedness.

PrideMatthew 8:19-20. The first disciple here is “a certain scribe.” To his credit, he has not been repulsed by all that Jesus has had to say about the scribes and the Pharisees. But, he speaks with the hubris of Peter (and all the disciples! Matthew 26:35), when he says, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go” (Matthew 8:19b). The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. So, let us be measured in the weight to which we give our intentions and sincerity. Rather, let us watch and pray so that we might not enter into temptation (cf. Matthew 26:41). And even more than that, let us take our hope and encouragement from Jesus’s own praying for us and sustaining us (cf. Luke 22:32). 

Here, the lesson is to count the cost. Jesus’s answer (Matthew 8:20) implies that the scribe has no idea what he’s getting himself into, and that the cost is beyond what he would be willing to lay out. A recent list of membership vows from a South Asian congregation supposedly asks, in a series of questions, whether the new member is willing to leave his home, lose the blessing of his father, lose his job, forgive and evangelize those who persecute him, give what little he has, and maintain his faith even if he is beaten, imprisoned, or even killed. 

I do not know the authenticity of the questionnaire, but I do know of the reality that it represents and that Jesus teaches us to humbly consider that we must lose everything in order to gain Him. Even that which is not providentially taken will not continue to be ours in the same way as before. Our very life will not continue to be ours! So, let us not hastily presume that our intentions or sincerity could ever keep us in the way of discipleship.

Half-heartednessMatthew 8:21-22. Now, another disciple who has noticed the degree of following-difficulty increased, wishes to be excused from following Jesus (Matthew 8:21). Jesus, Who went to Bethany for the death of His friend Lazarus, is not here suggesting that only the spiritually dead bury those close to them—let alone one’s father! Rather, He indicates that the one who thinks that following Him is something that can be turned on and turned off is still spiritually dead. A Christian must not have shifting priorities, where sometimes he is following Christ, and other times taking care of other business. Whether at a parent’s funeral, carrying out a civic duty, at his place of employment, or the dinner table, he must do all as a disciple, doing all for the sake of Christ and following Him. If we approach our lives otherwise, we live like those who are spiritually dead!

What difficulty have you faced on account of following Christ? What difficulties may you likely face in this life? What difficulties have other Christians faced? What are you willing to face? How would you be able to do so? In what part of life are you tempted to be forgetful of following Christ or even treat it as “taking time off” from being a Christian?

Sample prayer:  Lord, pray for us and help us, so that we would follow You even if it cost us prison and death. And, grant that we would do all things in Your Name and for Your sake, we ask in that Name, AMEN! 

Suggested songs: ARP26 “Lord, Vindicate Me” or TPH533 “Have Thine Own Way, Lord!”

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